AUSTIN EDITION City reviews cable contract
By Roxana Orellana
The city of Austin will begin work on its cable television franchise renewal with Charter Communications.
The contract that has been in place for about 15 years will expire May 3, 2006.
Before groups from both sides meet for negotiations, the city will figure out what it wants in the new contract.
On Tuesday the city's cable TV committee met with Brian Grogan, an attorney specializing in municipal communications, to go over the process.
The process will begin with an assessment of the community's needs and interests, along with a review of the company's past performance. Committee members will collect information from the community, including schools and groups, to see what the needs and interests are.
The committee will figure out whether there is need for equipment or other services from the company.
Comments also will be collected from residents at public hearings.
Once all information is collected, the old contract will be updated before taking a draft to Charter.
Grogan recommended reaching an agreement through an informal process rather than a formal one because it would be much faster and cheaper.
Charter needs a franchise in order to continue to provide service in the city.
The city is planning to increase its franchise fee from 3 percent to 5 percent. The fee is compensation for the company's use of the city's streets to run lines.
The city would like to negotiate a longer contract to ensure services. The company, however, is likely to prefer a shorter contract, Grogan said, because of legislation that could be adopted.
The committee plans to schedule public hearings in January and take a draft to the council before the meeting and before sending a draft of the contract to Charter.